Thursday, March 09, 2023

The Collapse LXXXXIV: Warm And Cold

 03 May 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

One of the most “annoying” things about living here is the fact that gardening has to start so late.

Our temperatures here in general during the day firmly say “Spring”, but our night temperatures firmly say “But not quite yet”. It is not that the overnight drop would inherently be bad, but is a problem with the overall soil temperature.

I have never been “good” at timing the time to plant. It was easiest where I first grew up of course: I clearly knew the seasons and precisely when to plant. It was less easy in the place we made our home for years: the weather was often too variable and “too early” often turned into “too late”.

Here, of course, I have had to completely start over with learning when and where. And in the past, I have managed to get it wrong even more than before. The rather unfortunate part, at the moment, is that now more than ever, I need to get it right.

I have help now, of course. Young Xerxes and Statiera and Pompeia Paulina have proved very valuable in this (as in so many ways). I had my books and my notes from previous years; this year I have taken the trouble to actually ask – thus, much of the Spring/Summer planting remains in the greenhouse, waiting until what likely seems much more like the end of this month to be moved out. They are usually rather kind about their suggestions, commenting in the roundabout way that strangers suggest things without being intrusive: “You were not planning on putting that out, were you?”

“No no” I awkwardly reply, “just moving things around in the greenhouse”. I then shuffle things a bit, trying to look as if this all was planned.

On the bright side, the increase in temperature (and length of daylight) continues to benefit other areas. The Winter holdovers are moving right along with growing (Leeks and Garlic and Onions and such). The Winter Wheat and Barley I planted have resumed their growing patterns, looking towards two months or so hence when I will harvest them. The bees are enjoying the continued good weather as well; I have not quite pulled the hive entrance restrictors out, but will likely do so in another two weeks.

And, in a stroke of what I can only consider good fortune, it appears I may have broody quail. I have asked Xerxes to see if anyone in the larger network has any other quail, and what if anything they would be willing to trade for them.

It is perhaps presumptuous to say “Things are looking up” given the current circumstances, but at least the increase in temperature and light means that they at least have the appearance of doing so.

And sometimes, even the “appearance of” can work wonders.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca


  1. Nylon126:05 AM

    Around here spring preps are spraying more canola oil on snow shovels and snow thrower intakes......(sigh). Last frost date here .....May first. Enjoy your greenery TB, at least there's more daylight now.

    1. Nylon12, I admire your ruggedness. That sounds like a difficult environment.

      13 years ago when we had to move, The Ravishing Mrs. TB's one requirement was "There cannot be snow on a regular basis". That somewhat restricted our geographic range...

  2. A broody Quail? They EXIST? LOL. I've always wondered how Quail survived in the wild as everybody I know buys eggs and an incubator.

    Good news indeed. I figure that being able to produce good free ranging chickens was a good trade item myself. So many folks around here have only Hens and buy replacements yearly.

    I looked up my garden notes, as scattered as they are (sigh) and dandelions showing up are still my best indicator that the ground is warm enough for cold weather crops like beans, potatoes, root crops and cabbages. Beech trees with leaves the size of my thumb it's almost corn planting time.

    Before Avacadoes from Mexico and Grocery stores spring was known as the starving season. The root cellars were almost empty, and it was about 100 days from planting to the first harvest of potatoes and such. Even the deer were poor eating thin from surviving the winter.

    But I note that ground hogs taste great, maybe it's the sauce of revenge when I find it in my garden, but...

    1. Michael - Broody quail seem to be an interesting topic of discussion. From what I can tell and from my limited experience, there are no significantly "more broody' species than any other, but they do seem to happen randomly. A rather interesting article I read here ( suggests that they are not broody due to the current conditions most people raise them in - give them space, the author seems to indicate, and good things might happen.

      My sense here in New Home is that Middle March is too early to plant, the first week of May is too late. I am now looking at my schedule to figure out when that can happen - fortunately with the upcoming change in Daylight Savings, I can easily gain another useful hour or two in the evening.

      We really do take our modern life and its conveniences for granted.

    2. Thanks for the Quail information. Makes sense.

      Have you ever used thrift store sheets and blankets to protect your gardens? Remember those neon yellow fuzzy blankets?

      The Thrift store folks normally throw them AND the ragged looking ones away as even the Yellow Bin recyclers don't take them.

      I'm known to them as the Dunkin Donuts guy, and I find by bringing them some donut holes and such they "Remember" to call me when they have a bunch for the dump.

      I first did it when an early frost was called, and I had 11 Butternut squash too small to harvest. So, I covered them for that night. Worked very well as only the extended parts of the sprawling squash plants frosted and died. Rest of the plant never missed a beat.

      Had to do the cover-uncover for 10 day before I harvested those squash.

      Been doing that with early and late crops ever since.

      Warms up my raised beds for early plantings also.

      Things our pre-electricity forefathers would have loved to have. Cheap enough sheets and blankets to toss over plants.

    3. Michael, I did try this with my lime trees this year - to no avail, the weather got them anyway. But I have not tried them for the garden, and will bear it in mind for next time (as I now have sheets that I can use for such things, as the lime trees are no longer present.

    4. I've struggled with trees and unseasonable warm lose the flowers in a frost dance. I've settled on using trees hardy to one whole USDA Grow zone worse than I have.

      Trees even dwarf are too high off the ground to get benefit from the days stored solar heat using blankets.

      I have had some success with charcoal burners and sheets but was up all night worried about wind blowing the sheets into the burners and POOF off goes my trees and maybe worse.

      Out of grow zone stuff like my figs are in large pots and I do the seasonal shuffle with them. I've been thinking about limes and such. So many projects so little time.

      I've mentioned that Spring before grocery stores was known as the starving season and thus, I've been busy figuring out how to keep even some calories growing all winter and how to get a head start on the season. The blankets I feel (only 2 years data so far) allows me to plant almost 3 weeks before normal time here and are really handy for those cold snaps.

    5. Michael, I have tried the French idea of an "Orangerie", or potted citrus plants inside (or brought in for the Winter). It was not a success; I think I stressed the plants excessively every time I moved them. Likely I would have been more successful by having them in the house all year or having an outdoor greenhouse with sufficient ventilation to open things wide in the Summer. The "tree in the house" idea may be worth revisiting.

  3. Yes, I think space is the answer. We used to have a covy of quail every spring raised under a red cedar tree at the end of our driveway. Despite being well aware of their presence, my heart would still skip a beat when they all took off in mass. Eventually, they sort of died off and pheasants took their place and ruled for at least a decade or two. But the pheasants have been taking a beating and the quail are starting to be more plentiful again.

    1. Ed, one of the things wild quail - at least in Old Home - needed was brush piles. One of the differences that did happen when my father cleaned up the underbrush was a dearth quail, likely due to that reason. There is always a balance between reducing the potential fire load and keeping things in place for the wildlife.

    2. They do need cover from predatory birds, hence brush piles and bushy cedar trees are great. Pheasants on the other hand thrive in uncluttered landscapes. Are their pheasants out at the Ranch? Google says it is possible but I'm guessing due to the wooded nature of the surrounding area, they may not be plentiful.

    3. Ed - No pheasants at all, actually. Not sure if we are too far up the Hill or they simply never got released here. Down farther, near where The Director lives, they do have them - but it is far more open.

  4. Replies
    1. Deb, I actually thought about that. Interestingly, the very old Roman system would have been LXXXXIIII, so even there Seneca apparently merged both. He has not informed me which way he will end up going.


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